Western Swing Chords On The Blues

favorite fingerstyle blues fingerstyle improvisation Nov 14, 2017

Mistakes Were Made

I was listening to Leo Sidran's podcast The Third Story this week, in particular his interview with pianist and harmonica virtuoso Howard Levy. It's a great interview, including, among other things, Levy's explanation of how the proportions found in common Western scales can also be found in various Afro-Cuban rhythms, and his demonstration of one of his favorite practice techniques, namely, transposing entire Bach inventions through all twelve keys the way some musicians warm up with scales. And this is after talking about and playing through his revolutionary technique for making completely chromatic music on any diatonic harmonica. By that point in the interview, what I really wanted to know was: how does someone find the time to even think about this many things, much less practice them with this kind of depth and detail? And it's not something obvious, like "trust fund, no kids," because he also explains in the same conversation how he left his most high-profile job, touring with Bela Fleck, because he didn't want to continue playing 130 dates a year while trying to raise a family.

In my line of work, as in that of many of my friends, there's is an ongoing negotiation as far as how far you're willing to go to get and/or execute the gig, and beyond that, what constitutes an effort sufficiently righteous that one can call the work done. Last night, reviewing the latest lesson for release, I discovered I'd mis-defined the intervals of a particular voicing at three minutes and two seconds in. And it turns out, there just wasn't a way, between Jeff and myself, to insert the necessary onscreen text, re-export the lesson and re-upload it, in any kind of timely manner. So the lesson's gone up, error and all, with a brief Youtube comment from yours truly explaining the mistake. The film composer Jeff Rona once said, "It's not what you can do, it's what you can do on time." Right about now, I'm going with that. And then, I'm going to find some time to resume practicing my C mixolydian licks in open-G tuning on the Dobro.

Here's the lesson, on swiping Western swing chord voicings from the steel guitar vocabulary and sneaking them into the blues. Hope you enjoy, mistakes and all.